Monday, December 12, 2011

Literary totes

I got it in my head last week that I needed a new tote bag: plain canvas, long handles, quiet but interesting design. I love this kind of bag for so many reasons. They are low key, multi-functional, eco-friendly, basic but so SO satisfying. They are practically the bag version of toast.

I took my quest to Twitter where it got picked up by Lauren Cerand (if you are a writer, you seriously WANT her to be your publicist) and, naturally, took a life of its own. After a brief exchange with Lauren, I was able to find a whole lot of bags that not only satisfied my requirements but seemed to tell a story that went beyond the canvas. You can imagine my total surprise when a couple of days later I saw the following piece in The New York Times:
A Message on Every Arm
Tote Bags Replace Purses as Status Symbols
by Miranda Purves
Seemingly democratic and certainly affordable (if not free), the tote might be the ideal carryall for these post-luxury recessionary times. The tote’s status is stealth. It telegraphs not money but access, ethics, culture — encapsulating the idea psychologist Daniel Gilbert popularized that happiness grows more through experiences than purchases.


So, I thought, well... this is a sign. I *must* share at least some of the fabulous totes that I found!

This one is from Melville House and was recommended to me by Miss Bennett. It says "I would prefer not to" and has the publishing house logo on the bag. I love that it's literary + snarky! One of my favorite combos. $12.

This next one is a bit obvious. It's the current Paris Review tote (they get a new design each year). It gets mentioned in the NY Times piece and is one of my favorites but I do not love the size of the bag so  I don't think I will actually be getting it. It's too big. I had to share it because I just watched Errol Morris's documentary Tabloid and the bag makes me think of it. Those of you who already saw the film should let me know if you got my little joke here. Plus, d'uh, I love The Paris Review. $20.

The last one that I am going to recommend is of interest to me for nostalgic reasons. It's the classic Penguin tote and I love it because it reminds me of high school in the early 1990s: learning English by reading classics, looking up words I didn't know and translating (poorly) in Bulgarian. For some reason, the only editions that were available in Bulgaria were Penguin's and every time I see those ugly-ass covers, my heart just skips a beat. They were such a big part of my grand escape! I love them. $19.95 

One of my favorite discoveries was that Zazzle has a pretty extensive Authors selection. They have totes that feature writer portraits and come in a variety of sizes. Check out Anton Chekhov, Virgina Woolf and our boy Franz! I don't think I will ever run out of birthday gift ideas ever again.


All this research got me really excited about the concept of literary tourism. And that's perfect since this weekend Kyle and I are taking a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, courtesy of our sweet friends Kelly and Michael. We are planning on visiting Rowan Oak and spending some time at Square Books where, guess what, I can stock up on reading and get myself a TOTE!

If you have other recommendations, please share!


  1. Oh, I like the Penguin one. Penguin books make me happy with their orange spines or minimalist typeface from the old days. And the spinoffs like Peacock and Puffin!

    My usual book tote bag has an Edward Gorey print on it that says "So Many Books, So Little Time." But I've also sewn several of my own with old paperback covers and that is really fun. Some of them turn out very strange.

  2. I like the idea behind the first one though it sounds sort of womanish. I have other recommendations or more precisely put ideas for recommendations. For example "It is only a game" or "My heart's not in it" sounds nice (if you are a man that is). Too bad men would never use totes.

  3. Jean:
    The ones you make yourself are always the best!!!

    I love your quotes buts "men would never use totes"???